It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint: Why You Shouldn't Give Up On The Path To Love

All it takes is one person to teach us what it means and feels like to be in love. Unfortunately, it also simply takes one person to shatter our trust and belief in the concept of any romantic notions.

The difference between these two kinds of people is that while one strengthens our faith in happy endings, the other turns us into a cynic.

It has been said that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. However, we continue to enforce a variety of defense mechanisms, just so we never have to experience the feeling of love being ripped from under our feet.

Once a part of our heart is stolen, there is no way in hell we are getting it back. That thought alone is f*cking frightening.

So, we hit the ground running; go with me on this metaphor for a second. We lace up our sneakers so tightly that our feet go numb; it doesn’t matter, though, because the rest of our bodies and mind cannot feel anything anyway, nor do they want to.

We direct our attention straightforward and avoid the temptation to look backwards. The chance of a new start is not appealing when we are in the mindset that “beginning” will inevitably be followed by “end,” so we find ourselves wearing imaginary horse-blinders.

Our focus is now so narrow that we don’t even know these chances are right at our sides. We keep running. We pass love by as we breathe heavily, panting, losing control of our muscles the way we lost control of our feelings.

Maybe we become fluent in sarcasm. Nobody can get to our deepest thoughts and emotions if they are so well hidden by witty banter and blunt repartee.

We become so consumed by this alter ego who thinks emotions are a myth that it becomes more convincing, too convincing, and eventually so convincing that it devours us.

We create distance with our language that makes others think we are speaking in tongues, becoming lost in translation so that we do not have to communicate how we were hurt and love destroyed us.

Perhaps we overcompensate and hook up with names we do not remember, faces we hardly recognize and bodies that serve as a temporary placeholder for the one that used to be.

We ensure these one-night stands that they do not have to call us back, let alone remember our names. We don’t want them to remember us the same way we do not want to remember who we used to be, or the real love we used to feel. It’s a new night, so it’s a new, unsubstantial person. Lather, rinse and repeat.

We put up walls. They are sturdy so that nobody sees the weakness that lies inside them. They are indestructible so we do not submit anyone else to our heartbroken, self-destructive tendencies. These walls are black, disallowing any light to shine through, even if that light -- or that love -- is right on the other side of these four confines.

If only we could break them down, then we would see what is waiting for us. But we can’t because breaking them down would mean displaying our vulnerabilities, which we can't imagine doing again.

These defense mechanisms do not make us bad people, nor do they indicate that we are incapable of loving another person. On the contrary, they imply not only that we can love, but also that we have loved.

“Good morning” text messages used to give us more energy than our first cup of coffee. We have stayed tangled in the sheets, talking about our dreams, instead of sleeping and having them. We have said, “I love you,” so much that it became as routine and brushing our teeth.

That’s just it: We have loved, or at least we think we have, and then one day, it all just went away.

We just want to escape the feelings of inadequacies and what could have been, so we put up walls, speak fluent sarcasm or run away. Our defenses all come down to two things: pain and fear. They are both inevitable, but they both serve valid purposes.

We have all experienced pain before, but very rarely do we appreciate “good” pain, which does exist. Think of the uncomfortable tightness in your thighs after a satisfying run; they are throbbing, but it is worth it.

We need to remind ourselves of the feelings that came before the heartache because many of those are examples of good pain. Instead of thinking about the pain that accompanied a breakup, reminisce about the jaw pain that followed non-stop smiling, or the headache that was a result of a night of red wine and laughter.

The more we remember the good pain, the less intense our bad pain sears. Eventually, it fades. The word "future" is synonymous with "uncertainty." If we do not know, then we are afraid, and that fear of not knowing who will be next to hurt us is paralyzing.

Framing the future in hopeful terms to knock out the fear is the best solution. Yeah, our hearts may have been broken, but that will never happen if we do not have the strength to try again.

If we knew everything, then the excitement of a new day would vanish. Life may suck from time to time, and heartbreak may be part of that, but I will take a breakup and uncertainty over boredom any day.

Love can be dramatic, unexpected and fickle. In reality, love is just like us: looking to be accepted and figuring itself out along the way.

We need to start running towards love, rather than away from it; love is a marathon. Everyone accomplishes it at different paces, and we may experience immense pain and setbacks while running its course.

Once we reach the finish line, however, we will wonder how we ever considered giving up along the way.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It